Tuesday, July 8, 2008

An answered prayer

I knew as soon as it happened that it was God's doing. What was it, something like five percent of the adult population that disappeared, and that just happened to include Mom and virtually her whole church, that had been predicting this for years? No way was that a coincidence.

But just because God had proved he existed didn't mean I was going to fall on my knees and start worshipping him. I couldn't get my head round this idea of a supposedly loving God that would split families up the way the Event did. If I could have talked to Mom about it, maybe she would have been able to explain it, or maybe not. But that was the whole point: she was gone. Everybody that could have made sense of it for me was gone, and I had to try to put it together on my own. When I first went away to college, I thought I was pretty smart, but this was way beyond me.

I tried talking to Dad about it, but he was coping in his own way. When he wasn't wallowing in guilt over all the times he'd come close to cheating on Mom, he was praying and trying to convince me I needed to join him. I told him how nasty and spiteful this God sounded, how I couldn't pray to any God who would do such a thing until I understood why, and the only reason he could give was that if I didn't kiss God's ass nicely, he might do something else even worse.

That might have suited Dad nicely, but it didn't suit me, so I didn't join in with his prayers. I did go to the church to see if the pastor guy could explain it any better, but he was too busy coming out with Bible geek stuff about how the weird preachers in Jerusalem tied in exactly with some prophecy or other. Dad just ate it all up, but it didn't come close to answering any of my questions.

I was praying though, kind of. At least, I was talking to Mom, as if she could still hear me, as if she could somehow answer me. We didn't always see eye-to-eye before, but now that she was gone I realised how many little things she'd done for me and how much I depended on her being there. I suppose I was putting on the rose-tinted glasses a bit, but the way she used to drive me nuts with her Bible quotes for every occasion didn't seem to matter as much as the fact that she was there for me and always had time to listen.

That was where things were at when we went to New York. Dad was meeting Hattie, the flight attendant he'd come closest to cheating on Mom with, and he wanted me along to prove how completely above-board everything was now. He wanted to tell her how God was behind the Event, and how she'd better get praying for the good of her soul, and he didn't get how creepy that was going to come across however I explained it. He was just utterly convinced that he was doing what God wanted him to do.

The scariest thing was, I thought he might be right.

Anyway, Hattie introduced Dad to Buck, this journalist guy who had been on his flight when the Event happened. For some reason I didn't really get, Buck wanted to interview Dad for the piece he was writing about the Event, which would have made Dad's day if he hadn't been so concerned about saving Hattie's soul. Buck and I cleared out to give him time to do that, and we spent a while wandering round the airport talking.

Well, Buck did most of the talking. I got the feeling he never really talked to anyone in depth: he seemed so grateful for the way I listened and let him pour it all out. And somehow we got drawn into flirting with each other, even though ... I mean, we didn't have a lot in common, apart from both being lonely. I guess the Event had thrown us both off a bit, and it was easier to hold onto someone else than to stand up on our own. Part of me felt like a bit of flirting was nothing to be ashamed of, but another part of me felt terrible at the way I was leading him on. Not to mention, how could I be thinking of things like that so soon after Mom...?

I didn't want to sit around listening to Buck interviewing Dad, so I sneaked away to the ladies' room. Hattie had the same idea, and we ended up standing awkwardly in front of the mirrors. Just looking at her, I could tell that however bad I'd thought Dad's salvation pitch was going to be, he'd somehow managed to make it worse. If this was what being on God's team could do, I wanted no part of it, ever.

But I didn't want to believe this was what God was really all about. I already knew how much power he had, and if he was that much of an asshole - I didn't want to think about it. But Mom had been on God's team for much longer, and she had never done anything like that. Maybe Dad was just making mistakes because he was new to the whole thing. You don't know how much I wanted to believe that.

So as soon as I had a minute to myself, I said another of my "prayers" to Mom. Asked her if she could sort of have a word with God, get him to send me some kind of sign. Just to let me know that Dad was wrong, that this wasn't the whole of God's will. And you know how sometimes when you pray, you get a calm, hopeful feeling inside as if someone really was listening? When I'd finished praying, that's how I felt.

There was still the problem of Buck. I still hadn't worked out whether I had anything to be ashamed of, but I felt like I did need to apologise for leading him on and make it clear that I didn't want things to go any further. The last thing I needed in my life was relationship drama. So I hung around after the meal to try to explain, but I couldn't find the right words. He seemed to think my talking to him meant I was interested, and I ended up giving him a vague brush-off about how he would have to look me up if he was ever in Chicago, which wasn't one of my better moments. He said something intense about how that would be sooner than I thought, which kind of gave me the creeps.

And when I got on the plane home the next day, who was sitting right next to me? I don't suppose it's a particularly impressive answer to a prayer, coming from someone who has the power to vanish millions of people in an instant, but maybe he couldn't be bothered to do more. After all, I was only the daughter of one of his believers. Besides, it got the message across effectively enough.

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